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Ethan Lindenberger — the 18-year-old who famously got vaccinated against his mother’s wishes — is in New York City today to speak at a high-level United Nations event on combating vaccine misinformation.

But the recent high school graduate’s planned appearance has sparked an onslaught of harassment by anti-vaccination individuals, who have flooded the phone lines of UNICEF, which is hosting the event.

The Norwalk, Ohio teen — whose mother is staunchly against vaccinations — posted on Reddit in November 2017 asking for advice on how to get up to speed on his immunizations. He ended up getting vaccinated against his mother’s wishes — and in the process, quickly gained prominence as a critic of vaccine misinformation.

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In March, Lindenberger testified before the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about the threat of false claims being made about vaccines online. He told lawmakers that most of his mother’s flawed information had come from Facebook, which has come under fire for not doing enough to curb health-related inaccuracies on its site.

“I believe she has been so taken advantage of with misinformation online,” he said.

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His outspoken advocacy for vaccines has earned him praise from medical professionals and the public health community. But it has also drawn the ire of anti-vaccine individuals, some of whom have harassed him with abusive comments and messages on social media platforms. Some have accused him of being in “Big Pharma’s pocket,” and others have leveled death threats, Lindenberger said. That’s why he wasn’t surprised by the phone calls that inundated the UNICEF office this week — or the hostile nature of some of those calls, he said.

“That’s happened to me for months,” he said. When he testified before the Senate, anti-vaccine protestors rallied outside. Some cornered him by the elevators, he said, and he had to be escorted by Capitol police.

Even in his own hometown, Lindenberger has faced fierce criticism.

“I have friends and family, people who go to my church, who can’t stand what I’m doing,” he said. “When something becomes this polarizing, it becomes very toxic,” he added.

Lindenberger said he tries to separate himself from the attacks that come his way. And though his social media profiles are sometimes overwhelmed with anti-vaccine comments, he tries to engage when he can and sees an opportunity to share accurate information.

“People can be misinformed and so driven and radicalized that it’s almost more sad than it is offensive,” Lindenberger said. “I try to be as respectful of that than I can,” he added.

His speech at the U.N. today comes as the country’s measles count moves toward a quarter-century high. There have been 1,077 cases so far in 2019, according to the CDC.

Lindenberger plans to talk about how social media sites allow dangerous misinformation about vaccines to spread. He’ll also talk about how online anti-vaccine communities can “militarize” to bombard his posts and those of other vaccine advocates with a deluge of hostile comments. Also speaking at the event: Jason Hirsh, head of Facebook’s health policy team, and Gillian Steelfisher, who studies vaccine behaviors and attitudes.

And while Lindenberger continues to champion vaccines and accurate information about them, his mom’s views haven’t changed, he said.

“She believes what I’m doing is dangerous, scary, and misinformed,” he said.

  • Timm- Don’t listen to the compelling report; stay in your insulated bubble that has obviously successfully protected you from the knowing the facts about the vaccine paradigm, which is in the process of dying. Pop the Bubbly.

  • What is happening to those 1000s of families?
    Everyone has the right to speak out and nobody is forced to be vaccinated.

  • He made his bed.. I’m sure he got paid, so I don’t feel bad for him at all. I feel bad for his mom & all the vaccine injured out there who aren’t given any platform at all.

    • What makes you sure he got paid? I haven’t seen objective information on that anywhere.
      One can have any platform one wishes. At least in this country. That doesn’t mean that legitimate news sources or other private entities are forced to broadcast a particular message if they find it unfounded or of no worth. As for the vanishingly small number of “vaccine-injured” people, there is actually an entire government program to make sure that they are treated and compensated for those unavoidable (while always striving for fewer and fewer such events) downsides to protecting millions of people saved from preventable diseases that have historically caused incredible suffering and tens of thousands of deaths every year.
      Hope this helps!

  • What about listening to all the parents of vaccine injured/killed babies/kids/teens?!

    This is a slap in the face to them that he gets a voice and they don’t. That’s why people are angry!

  • Hi Bill,
    Who is? Me or Scott or Lisa or Holly?
    Regardless, can you please explain with true facts WHY one of us is a pro-disease cult moron?

  • He is not combating misinformation. He is combating the cat is out of the bag facts. People have had enough of ‘cigarettes don’t cause cancer’ science in regard to vaccines. Its time to understand what exactly the 1986 Childhood Vaccine Injury Act does for big pharma and what it doesn’t do for the injured and dead.

  • Not vaccinating causes more harm / illness / death than the meagre percentages of only a small percentage of vaccines do. If one calms down and does the math, one realizes that vaccines are successful.
    To read how low anti-vaxxers sink to gutter-style name-calling simply underscores the class (= absence of it) of anti-vaxxers. Time to ignore them & their brain-washed ” rhetoric”.

  • Not being allowed to keep shouting demonstrably wrong anti-science conspiracy nonsense in a setting where people are discussing facts isn’t censorship. You and your wrong opinions have no place on a scientific panel discussion. Your wrong opinions do not carry equal weight. They do not deserve equal consideration because they have been shown to be misguided and are demonstrably ill-conceived. To grant anti-vaxxers equal voice in any scientific discussion would be the same as giving equal time to flat-earthers at an astrophysics symposium.

  • Holly,
    What makes you think he is being paid? I don’t believe congress pays those who testify, but I suppose there could be some kind reimbursement for travel or something. Please elaborate on this.

    How are this young man’s speeches censoring people? We still have almost absolute free speech rights in the USA. Isn’t he just exercising his rights?
    Whose rights are being taken away? You are absolutely free to go against the entirety of the scientific, academic, medical, governmental, nongovernmental, and human rights communities and NOT be vaccinated. (True, you may be limited in what public places, forms of transportation, schools, and other institutions you are allowed to go; but that’s true of any act anyone takes which harms or kills others)

    I’ve never heard this man (or Mr Kimmel for that matter) claim to be an expert on immunology or public health or infectious diseases, etc. One doesn’t HAVE to be an expert in those fields to review the really overwhelming evidence that is publicly available from those actual experts and educate themselves as much as possible. Certainly, having the actual experts doing the research and guiding the policies & education on such matters is important. Thankfully their near-unanimous findings are easy for even non-experts to understand.

    I realize it’s hard to prove a negative, but please provide some clarification on where the United Nations is using something other than facts and objective science to guide their recommendations; and also evidence of where they (or anyone) is using force. You again mention censorship here, and at least in the USA (and most western democracies), such censorship would be illegal, so if I were you, I’d contact the ACLU or Amnesty International.

    I don’t blame you one bit for wanting to fight forced vaccinations. Thankfully, for all of us, that’s not a thing.

    best wishes.

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